By Liaquath Mirza
So, we have veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah in the news again. No, it’s not in connection with any of his movie projects or even his personal life. He is in the news because he wronged the “right” with his ‘intolerant’ utterings on intolerance.
Aamir khan had walked down the road, Shahrukh too did so and even Naseer had done it earlier. While the ‘stars’ decided to touch the mute button on these touchy matters and generally observe the rule that ‘silence is golden’ on these matters, the ‘actor’ decided to voice his opinion once again. And boy did it invite the wrath and fury of a tropical cyclone!!
Cyclone Phethai has hit the seas of internet and TV studios were flooded with deluge of debates, dissections and downright cacophony. Naseer was hounded for some more sound bites. One can see a sea of bile flowing through the gutters of twitter.
Project us versus them has reached its peak .What to do… now that the elections are round the corner.
Alas the powers who had captured the power with the slogan sab ka saath sab ka vikaas can boast of neither. Sab ka saath was just a diplomatic jumla. A polite way of convincing the middles classes by donning the mask of moderation. An empty promise. If one looks closely at the slogan one notices that it comes with a ‘conditions apply’ asterisk attached. Condition being Muslims need not count on the Government’s saath.
As for as the second part of the slogan is concerned, poor chaps in the power echelons did try every trick in the book to build the perception of development. There was the sudden announcement of demonetisation and rainbow dreams were woven around it. Our worthy prime minister even cracked jokes about common man’s misery on foreign shores. Lakhs of crores of black money was to be brought back into the government coffers with this one stupendous move. One RBI governor was sent packing to pave the way for road roller of demonetisation. Another supposedly pliable one was brought on board who turned out to be not as palatable as expected to be so much later, the Gods of Delhi decided to spit him out.
The exercise proved to be a bigger flop than the thugs of Hindosthan. Figuratively speaking the thugs of Hindosthan were happily fleeing Indian shores finding luxurious shelters abroad, even acquiring new citizenships and generally leading their lavish lives of existence while the self declared chowkidaar was caught napping.
The move it seemed to me was apparently inspired by a pedestrian potboiler movie from down south in which an ‘economist’ donning the beggar robes advocates demonetisation of high denomination notes to root out black money. Or was it done at the behest of a certain bright eyed, green behind the ears team of chartered accountants of Pune?
Any way the source of germination of this idea is not important. What is important is Mr.Rambo 56 decided to carry out the surgical strike on black money with the precision of a hacker performing a delicate brain surgery. The result? Operation success patient dead.
Then came the GST and its shoddy implementation. The ‘Good and simple tax turned out to be a nightmare for the traders and businesses. Simple became a garangutan complex maze with myriad layers of tax slabs ranging from 5 to 28 percent.
Rules got complicated, traders got confused and Government machinery got muddled. Lawyer finance minister and entire political science prime minister trundled on with brave faces singing bhajans of self-glorification. But the masses were unimpressed. Downward slide at the hustings in election after election left the Gentlemen of the Nagpur controlled government worried.
So now the tried and tested trick of whipping up communal frenzy is hard at work at all quarters. Clashes of Saffron and green at every adda are manufactured, magnified and manipulated. The righteous right’s favourite whipping boy , the miyan bhai is paraded down the streets, lynched as and when necessary and generally shouted down from every pulpit ( This includes Sambit Patra’s comical shouts Maulana baith ja in TV rooms ) for the centuries old wrongs committed by his so called ‘ancestors’. Revenge served karma style.
The right wingers realised rather belatedly that flogging dalits (literally and figuratively) will adversely impact their poll prospects. So they are forced to maintain a facade of Hindu ektha even though they may detest them in private. But when it comes to the Miyan men and women folk they still need a villain to cast a shadow over their shortcomings of governance. So the project polarization and the othering of Muslim monsters continues. The righteous right can’t project centuries’ old sense of victimhood without the Muslims. Muslims are the very reason for their existence in the first place.
If one has to win elections again then one has to project ‘Babar ki aulad’ as the villlain of the piece for our great nation’s ills. Never mind the current failures of employment generation, agrarian distress, polluted rivers, toxic air and unkempt promises of 15 lakh in every account. Let’s talk about Muslims and their misdemeanours is the refrain of TV channel debates. For every short coming of the government there is the Muslim bogeyman that has to be dusted out, propped up from time to time and held accountable. Occasionally we will also resort to Nehru bashing in the process but that is only a side dish, our main course is still the Muslimmonster.
The nation does not need to know about real problems afflicting society. Muslim fodder will keep the debate mills on TVs and social media crunching grinding and churning. Nation needs a tamasha and skull cap wearing bearded miyan bhai puppets are the antagonists pitted against theatricals of a supposedly 56 inch chested and potbellied ageing matinee idol and his cohorts. Bollywood Block buster pot boiler in the making.
It is one thing when a libtard sickular dissents the present powers that be, but when that libtard happens to go by a Muslim name then all hell will break loose. The gaint monster machine of propaganda starts whirring, purring and then roaring. All other noises of reason and logic get drowned under the loud clickety clack of this gargantuan transformer toy.
Malice manufactured by it does the rounds of twitter then Facebook and then WhatsApp before turning its gaze on TV rooms.
Naseeruddin shah provided that machine with a perfect fodder that will probably last weeks before cogs in the machine slow down and come to a grinding halt.
Now let us see what Naseer said in that ill-fated interview given to karvan-e-mohabbat. Loosely translated it goes something like this:
‘The poison of polarisation has spread far and wide and now it is difficult to put the Djinn back into the bottle again. There is complete immunity and sanction given to lumpen elements to take law into their own hands. Now death of a cow is given more importance than the death of a cop. I am worried about my children who, we brought up without any religion. I was taught about religion in my childhood but my wife Ratna grew up in a more liberal environment. We both decided that we would not give our children religious education as it is our firm belief that being good or evil has nothing to do with religion instead we taught them about right and wrong. I am worried about my children in situations where mobs surround them and ask them if they are Hindu or Muslim because they are neither. They will not have an answer. I don’t see any improvement happening in the foreseeable future. These matters don’t scare me rather they make me angry. I feel every right thinking Indian should be angry and not feel scared. After all this nation is our home and who can dare evict us from our home’
Now any right thinking citizen should not have a problem with the angst and anger expressed by Naseeruddin shah. Yes he does exhibit a pessimistic outlook but given the way lumpen elements have started occupying centre stage that feeling is but natural. And yet the amount of viciousness unleashed on him actually validates his argument of hopelessness.
Now let us see a few gems of the vitriol.
His colleague from the industry Anupam Kher while grudgingly conceding that everyone has freedom to say whatever one wants to say comes up with a bizarre logic of stating that our country has so much freedom that one can criticize the chief of air staff, pelt stones at army men and abuse the army, how much more freedom does one need? His bizarre logic confirms to the classic whataboutery of right wing arguments when they run out of logical arguments. He somehow equates mob lynching where the hapless victims are defenceless, with stone peltings against massive weapon wielding armed forces pitted against their own people. He sees proportional relationship between a verbal criticisms of the air chief to the killing of an innocent teenager on a train for wearing his religion on his head. His inverse world does not differentiate between a verbal abuse and a fatal killing of a cop.
A wannabe rookie leader Amit jaani of UP Navnirman Sena looking for some limelight goes ahead and buys a one way ticket to Pakistan for Naseeruddin shah. The patriot is offended by anti national utterings of a miyan bhai. I wonder if the genius really tried to understand what Naseer said and what was it that he found offensive to his patriotic sensibilities.
All sundry TV news channels exploded with gleeful debates with an eye on TRP ratings and the TV room cubby hole windows filled up with assorted characters drawn from across the spectrum of left to right, passing judgements in favor of and against Naseeruddin Shah.
Poor Naseer was hounded again and again for some more sound bites to dig a deeper trench of controversy and ridicule. This tragi comedy circus will continue to hound the viewers until the TV worthies move on to another scapegoat and another spectacle.
I don’t know in which context Samuel Johnson quoted that” patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel” but the saying suits to a T for our present times of mindless debates invoking nationalism and dragging the armed forces into every argument.
While the space of dissent for all right thinking Indians has shrunk substantially, dissent by an intellectual or even an ordinary person with a Muslim name against his photo in his aadhar card seems to have virtually come to a zero. It is not surprising at all when seeds of strife have been assiduously sown by none other than the great orator Prime minister who didn’t think twice before hitting below the belt with his sarcastic farewell speech in the parliament in honour of the outgoing Vice President. Poor chap should have approached the Yogi of UP for a name change from a Hamid to a Haldiram may be, to avoid ridicule by the glib globe trotter.
Muslims are akin to the ‘roaches’ of the popular dystopian tv series called ‘Black mirror. In one of these episodes there is scary portrayal of beast like creatures bearing human like features called the roaches. Whatever the ‘roach’ says or does doesn’t make any sense to the normal human beings.
We may even draw parallels between black lives in America and miyan bhai lives in India.
Both occupy the bottom rungs of their respective societies. Both have unusually huge representations in jails. The only difference is that here in India their dalit brethren also stand alongside them in Jails. Both the blacks of America and the neo blacks of India are heavily underrepresented in government and private jobs. Both of them are dependent on blue collar jobs for their livelihood. Both face discrimination practiced either directly or as an undercurrent by elite members of civil society. Here in India the miyan bhais join the ranks of dalits when it comes to discrimination .The list goes on and on and can be a topic of another article by itself. While the dalits are the classic example of apartheid in India Muslims are the neo blacks of India demonized and dehumanised by the present actors of statecraft.
I guess like Naseeruddin shah implored, it’s time for all right thinking citizens of India to speak out …..not just speak out but shout out so loud that the voices of hatred drown out.
Congress Making It Easier for Modi
By Prem Shankar Jha
Prime Minister Modi has convinced most of the political class that he has turned the tragedy at Pulwama into a great military and diplomatic victory against Pakistan. As a result, many of those who are in politics only to line their pockets are seriously considering jumping on to the BJP boat even at this late hour. Do they not realise that everything Modi has done since February 14 is pure theatre – whose only purpose is to somehow win an election he was destined to lose because of the amateurish performance of his government, its scant respect for the rule of law and the coming together of the opposition?
In 2014, the BJP came to power because its vote share jumped 13 percentage points from 18% to 31%. This happened because a large part of the electorate, which had seen growth slacken sharply in 2011, believed his grandiose promise to bring back “acche din”. i.e revive economic growth, and create millions of jobs. Instead, all he has created in the past five years is a factory for the suppression or falsification of economic data.
What he has not been able to suppress or misrepresent is the near-complete absence of new jobs, the loss of 11 million jobs in industry, and further millions in construction, and the rise of the totally unemployed, to 6.2% of the workforce – the highest level in 45 years.
The spreading disillusionment had already been reflected in a string of defeats in recent assembly elections and bye-elections, Modi knew that the BJP could not possibly win on its own, so he turned to that “last refuge of the scoundrel”, patriotism. Pulwama gave him the opportunity he was looking for and he has taken full advantage of it – with a ruthlessness that is strongly reminiscent of his opportunism after the Gujarat riots of 2002.
The irony, which the big media won’t focus attention on, is that the government had received no fewer than three warnings from the Intelligence Bureau and a more detailed one from the Kashmir police warning of the threat of an imminent attack. The golden rule in intelligence analysis all over the world is that for a piece of information to be taken seriously it must be obtained from two independent sources. The pre-Pulwama warning passed the test.
The CRPF brass, presumably, took the threats seriously, and asked for its jawans to be transported by air instead of sending them by road. It may have also suggested this because heavy snowfall had forced a bunching up of two convoys and was certain to slow their movement to a crawl. But the fact remains that it made the request, and the request was denied.
Who had the power to deny such a request? In such an important matter, it is unlikely that the Ministry of Home Affairs would have declined on its own. What is more, had it actually done so, the air would have been full of recrimination and denials in the days that followed. But a full month later, there has been only silence. So it is beyond reasonable doubt that the request was denied by the PMO. And that means Modi. Why he would do that, only knows.
This is not the first time Modi has tried to turn mass death into political advantage. Modi was able to use the Godhra fire tragedy and the orchestrated massacres which followed to advance the Gujarat elections by four months, win it and remain the chief minister of Gujarat for the next 12 years. It would have been against his nature not to seize the ‘opportunity’ that the death of CRPF jawans would give him.
Everything that has happened since then has been excellently choreographed theatre. First, Modi promised a ‘surgical strike ‘ in retaliation. That took place 12 days later on February 26. Within hours of the IAF attack on Balakot in Pakistan, which the Indian foreign secretary said had wiped out a key Jaish-e-Mohammad training camp, BJP ministers put out the claim that 300 to 400 terrorists had been killed. Since then, satellite imagery and explosive analysis suggests that the madrassa at Balakot is not only standing, but might have suffered very little damage, and that any casualties would have been far fewer than the political claims being bandied about. The air force itself said it would be “premature” to say how many people had been killed in the airstrike.
Satellite imagery apart, the most credible evidence has come over the phone from what a student at the madrassa told NirupamaSubramaniam, the highly respected journalist who used to be correspondent of The Hindu in Islamabad and is now with the Indian Express. He said that a ‘huge’ bomb had fallen close to the madrassa, after which the army had hastily evacuated the students to safe locations elsewhere.
But one does not have to choose between conflicting second hand reports and satellite analysis to arrive at this conclusion. The clinching proof is not even Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s assertion that there had been no casualties, but in where he made it. For this was in Pakistan’s National Assembly. Since Balakot is in Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa, is it credible that an MNA from the area would not have stood up, challenged his statement, named some of the dead and accused him of being a coward who did not want to confront India? No elected prime minister can take such a risk, and that is doubly so in Pakistan.
So if no one was killed, was it because the Indian Air Force is so monumentally inept that it missed a stationary target – a large complex – with not one but four precision-guided bombs? Since this idea strains credibility to the extreme, only one explanation remains: that the attacks were intended to miss.
This is the only hypothesis that explains two other anomalies: the first is US President Donald Trump’s curious statement a day earlier that he believed India would launch a reprisal attack and he would ‘understand’ if it did. The second is the care the Pakistan Air Force took not to cross the LoC in its retaliatory strike, and to attack only uninhabited sites ‘in order to show the PAF’s capability’. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the US helped to orchestrate the two reactions in order to ensure that the conflict did not spill over into war.
From Modi’s point of view, therefore, the entire operation has been a monumental success. But for the nation, it is an unmitigated disaster. Yet, sceptics may ask, does one swallow a summer make? No, but the air strike was only the last of several other swallows. Another is the hue and cry that Modi has made over the declaration of Masood Azhar as an international terrorist. Modi tried to do this before the UN Security Council met on Pulwama, but failed. In fact, the UNSC resolution did not even condemn the Jaish-e Mohammad directly, but only acknowledged that it had claimed responsibility. Modi brought the listing matter up again after the tit-for-tat airstrikes and, predictably, China again vetoed it.
Azhar richly deserves to be both named and sanctioned, and the Chinese refusal is a blatantly immoral act born out of the basest form of realpolitik. But how much importance should India attach to a purely symbolic declaration that will change absolutely nothing on the ground? For Masood Azhar has shown no desire to travel abroad since his return to Pakistan in 2000. So the ban means nothing to him, or to Islamabad. What will India gain from such a declaration? The answer is ‘nothing’. But Modi’sself image as a lohpurush would gain a great deal. That is what he has been willing to endanger India’s relations with its most powerful neighbour for. The brinkmanship this involves is in many ways even more irresponsible than what he has shown over Pulwama.
What would have happened if the IAF’s bombs had actually killed 300 students inside the madrasa, whether he was training to be a jihadi, or was simply the son of a poor man who could not afford to pay the fees for a regular school? Would Pakistan then have responded with four attacks on vacant land in POK? And if it had done more, how long would it have been before the conflict escalated? This is the kind of risk that Modi was willing to run in his ruthless campaign to get re-elected, yet the Congress is unable to point this out to the people.
Today, the only sure way to prevent the Sanghparivar from returning to power is for the Congress to maintain a solid front with the opposition and establish a commonly agreed set of criteria for the allocation of seats among alliance partners. In the Congress, the main opposition to this common-sense strategy is coming from the local cadres whose capacity to raise money on the pretext of meeting election expenses and promising favours to donors in return, will vanish the moment their constituency is given to another party. This thinking is threatening to create three-cornered contests in UP, Delhi, MP, Bihar and other states, which could end by bringing the BJP back to power.
The only person who can overturn this suicidal strategy is Rahul Gandhi. It is time he brought his party back under his control. If the Congress is exposed as having only 5% of the vote in Delhi, and 8-10% in Uttar Pradesh, and is responsible for the failure of the mahagatbandhan, this will not only end the hold of the Nehru family over the party but also destroy its cadres’ standing in their constituencies.
How did Pulwama happen?
By T K Arun
Speaking at the 80th raising day of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), National Security Adviser AjitDoval said that the nation’s leadership is capable of reacting to any terror attack, and will decide if the retaliation should target terrorists or those who control them. That is very well, but what about preventing another attack?
When a suicide bomber drove a vehicle laden with some 300 kg of explosives into a convoy of CRPF personnel at Pulwama, the result was tragedy. Over 40 security men were killed, several more wounded. The immediate reaction was sorrow, anger and outrage. The attack was claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), headed by Masood Azhar. In retaliation, the government sent Indian warplanes into Pakistani territory and bombed targets there.
The response was powerful, justified and recognised as such by most global powers. Pakistan came under immense pressure to release the Indian fighter pilot it had shot down and captured. India won diplomatic support for putting Masood Azhar on the UN’s sanctions list from most countries, save China.
The general reaction in India was one of jubilation at breaking free from Pakistan’s nuclear thrall. Prime Minister NarendraModi who dared to take the decision to use air power, even if only for a “pre-emptive, non-military” strike, basked in the glow of public approval. But, in the process, one vital question has been left to blow forlornly in the wind: why and how did Pulwama happen? When military men die, the popular response is one of grief and admiration for their heroism. Rarely do people ask whether those deaths were necessary.
Not though the soldier knew someone had blundered. Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die/ Into the valley of death/ Rode the six hundred. The Charge of the Light Brigade evokes awe of military bravery and sacrifice, but it also deplores blundered loss of life.
The mid-19th century Crimean war, in which a traditional British light cavalry brigade charged a deployment of Russian cannon, providing Alfred Tennyson with the material for his poem, caused so much needless loss of life and treasure that the resultant public outcry led to professionalization of the British army and the conduct of war.
In India, the death of brave soldiers provokes similar awe at their bravery and sacrifice. But the needed follow-through of professionalization of conduct in matters of war and security just does not happen.
The Pathankot Air Force Station was attacked in January 2016. Six soldiers were killed. India handed over proof to Islamabad of their non-State actors’ involvement in the attack, even invited their people to investigate the crime scene. Deadpan, Pakistani investigators declared that India had stage-managed the attack to malign Pakistan.
Six months later, an army brigade headquarters at Uri was attacked. It left 19 soldiers dead. India performed its surgical strikes on terror launch pads across the Line of Control and declared vindication.
Two months later, terrorists attacked an army base at Nagrota, killing seven Indian soldiers. Evidently, the surgical strikes were more effective in spawning Bollywood josh than in preventing further attacks.
After the Pulwama attack and India’s counter-attack, the National Security Adviser is again threatening retaliation for fresh attacks. Could we have some serious thought on how to prevent such attacks, foiling incipient attacks through intelligence that lives up to its name and pre-emptive action?
If we value the lives of our soldiers, we must focus on preventing such attacks, not revelling in our ability to strike back when a fresh attack happens. For that, fresh attacks must be recognised as security failures on the part of the government that cannot be offset by any subsequent show of force.
Nor is this failure at the level of policing and intelligence gathering alone. Essentially, the failure is that of politics, failure to live up to the promise and challenge of democracy. It is now commonplace for an encounter in Kashmir between India’s armed forces and separatist militants to draw a local crowd of protesters, who seek to shield the militants and help them escape. Some of these civilians end up as collateral damage. Every civilian death breeds yet more alienation and yet more militants.
One such young man drove a carload of explosives into the CRPF convoy at Pulwama.
For far too long has India sent its security forces to wage war against its own people in Kashmir, the northeast, the tribal plains and jungles of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. This strategy has produced alienation and discontent, propelling the conflict forward from one generation to the next. Soldiers have been killed, as well as civilians and rebels. This strategy must be abandoned.
India’s biggest strength is democracy. Democracy must be the means to resolve separatist conflict and rebellion. Brandishing the sword of retribution serves not to deter fresh attacks, but to whip up nationalist frenzy. That is not the way to honour the dead.
Leaders must draw from NZ PM’s courage
By Gopal krishna Gandhi
Wisdom in tranquillity, like courage under pressure, is admirable. But not unknown. But wisdom and courage, both, being displayed in a situation of unprecedented tension, are exceptional. If a Nobel Prize for Peace could be given to a spontaneous statement for wisdom and courage, rather to a person, New Zealand’s Prime Minister JacindaArdern deserves it. The words spoken by her after the terror attack in Christchurch were few. They are unforgettable. One single, three word sentence, the most so. Referring to the 49 or more killed, she said: “They are us”. Not “they are one of us”, or “they could have been you or me”. None of that cautious, self-insulating, self-indemnifying vagueness. Simply, they are us.
Those learned in Sanskrit scripture would call this pure Advaita, captured in RamanaMaharshi’s way of looking at things in the term “I am Thou”, captured by the Indian philosopher Ramchandra Gandhi for the eponymous title-theme of his extraordinary book. If at one level Ardern gave us a metaphysical statement, at another level she also gave us, spontaneously, a highly practical political philosophy that is critical to human survival today.
Reversing the “us” and “them” binary, throwing old concepts of otherness out of the window, giving no space to either cliché or platitude, she then said “…the person who perpetuated this violence is not”. The significance of both statements is mutual, colossal.
Almost all the targeted victims were Muslim, the attacker or attackers, white and Christian just like Ardern is. In saying that the terrorist or terrorists behind the attack may have been from New Zealand’s majority community but they do not represent it, cannot represent it, for they have done something inhuman, something that goes against civilisation, she said something that each New Zealander needs to know. She could have said she was grieved, agonised, appalled. She could have said ,as the head of government, as one who has to maintain order and uphold law, that she was horrified, angry, in righteous fury. And that would have been considered right, termed appropriate. But no, Ardern spoke from a thinking heart and feeling mind to say something that was totally different, totally timely and timeless. The perpetrators of terror are the aberration, she conveyed, the anomaly, the deviation, divergence from civility, from humanity that places them in a universal not one of us-ness. She made a difference, drew a line that was not about ethnicity but human decency. And then, in an amazingly topical observation for a world that is closing its eyes and shutting its doors to immigrants and refugees, she said, and I quote her exact words, “Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand, they may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home. They are us.”
And in so doing, she said something that philosophers in positions of statesmanship have, like the emperor Asoka did, for their times and for all time. Being the other, being migrants, refugees, immigration or asylum seekers, being in a minority, being different, being isolated, bereft, in other words, being orphaned, is a condition that can be ours, yours or mine, at any time anywhere.
On the subcontinent of India, in South Asia, the condition is endemic. Each one of us is, in the next mohalla, a potential other.
A Christchurch-like mosque or temple exists in every city, town and village in India and can be the scene of terror attacks, exactly like the mosques in Christchurch. And since Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs now inhabit places outside India in large numbers, Christchurch repeats can happen anywhere, across the globe. What will be the effect? Perpetual revenge, retribution, vengeance. Perpetual , mutually sustaining hatred.
If extremists practising their macabre method under the name of Islam now wreak vengeance on churches and chapels with Christian congregations at prayer, the world will not have a day of peace, its religions no freedom from tension, fear, hate. No immigrant anywhere outside South Asia , whether Hindu or Muslim or Sikh will then feel secure. Nor Christians, of an ethnicity same or similar to that of Christchurch’s mass murderer.
India’s leaders have to draw from Prime Minister Ardern a lesson in spontaneously courageous wisdom or wise courage to say that victims of violence are us, and no perpetrator of violence is us. More specifically, that migrants and refugees seeking shelter in India from ethnic prosecution are in their own home. Non-refoulement could not have been defined better than in JacindaArdern’s words.
The darkness of that massacre has met the only light that can dispel it.
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